The most commonly visited part of the island has an ANAM field station on a pretty, sandy cove backed by hills. Even day visitors must register here and pay a US$20-per-person entrance fee for Parque Nacional Coiba.
The complex includes a boat anchorage, guest cabins, a kitchen and dining area, and a small museum. The museum contains the skeleton of a humpback whale and specimens of other critters recovered from the park, including pickled fer-de-lance and coral snakes.
Each of the six cabins for guests has two rooms with separate entrances. The cabins are quite basic and bare-bones, but they’re perfectly fine, especially given the extreme isolation of this place. They’re even air-conditioned. Rates are US$10 per person, plus the one-time US$20 per-person park entrance fee.
It is much less of a hassle to arrange a visit through a tour operator that frequents the island. To set up a visit on your own, contact ANAM in Santiago (tel. 998-4271). You can also try calling the field station on the island (tel. 999-8103).
Note: Management of Parque Nacional Coiba is scheduled to change, and contact numbers may change with it. ANAM should be able to provide updated information if this happens.
The station supplies diesel for electricity 6 p.m.–midnight. Those who want air-conditioning through the night have to bring their own diesel supply. About 15 gallons of diesel per cabin should last through two nights.
Independent travelers should also note the need to bring not only food but also the gas to prepare it (stoves are provided). Meals are eaten in an open-air rancho. Be prepared for mosquitoes and chitras (sand flies), which are fierce around here. There’s nothing to do in the evenings but enjoy the tranquility.
Though this place is paradise, it’s easy to see that life here could get a bit tedious. No wonder the rangers have befriended some of the local wildlife. The most impressive is Tito, a three-meter crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) that emerges from the water when called to dinner. Another is Pancho, a Geoffroy’s tamarin. Sara is a fat and lazy deer—not surprising, since her diet now includes junk food.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition